EFY: Went, loved it, would definitely send my kids. However, I wouldn't expect much more than a fun camp. EFY is not responsible for teaching my kids the gospel, but why not EFY instead of band camp, or science camp, or other youth camp program?
Music: I can't stand Christian music of any sorts (except maybe instrumental hymns). My brain almost rotted out of my head in Florida where Christian music made up a 1/3 of all the stations. I feel the same way about listening to Delilah. Or any preachy, annoying person on the radio. Like umm, Glenn Beck. Ugghhh. I can't stand country either though, since 9/11. Too much "America is the Universe" type songs. Basically, give me Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer any day. I guess I'm heretical according to Pyshco-lady. I will say though, I don't listen to most contemporary pop music either, I can't even tell you one Beiber song. And while it was cute to hear Elena sing, "Shake, Shake, Shake!" (Metro Station) to the radio, I never downloaded it and added it to our CD music because of the lyrics, and I find much of pop music inappropriate.
John Bytheway, Deseret Book, and the like: Funny once in a while, I've never really liked that sort of a thing much. Deseret Book in it's entirety I've always thought was a bit overwhelming and Andrea and I have long disparaged their authors, like Anita Stansfield etc, but I also don't like Janette Oke, or any books like that at all really--so is it really Deseret Book, or is it I simply would prefer to read nonfiction books about lost cities in the Amazon? And if John Bytheway can get through to even a few teens, then what's the harm? I love Brad Wilcox's books about maturation and I use it to teach my children and his talk is the one talk I remember from EFY.
Facebook: I am friends with a few of Leo's YM from back in the day in Chicago, and yes they post hugely inappropriate things, however, I don't find that at all surprising as only two of the YM in our ward were allowed to take the sacrament and they were deacons at the time. I personally just don't want to know that much about the youth's lives and most posts are song lyrics or stupidity. I only have so much time to waste.
Youth Conferences: I only remember two, one was lame, the other fun (temple trip to Cardston from ND). Again I feel the same way about them as EFY, socializing is a good thing when you're out in the sticks like ND. I had a blast at all our stake activities. But then there were only about 45 youth and no really big cliques (how could there be in a stake that small?) Did I have spiritual experiences there? Not that I recall, although again, I don't think YC should be where I gain my testimony. It did help uplift me and support me to just go out and have friends with common beliefs, which is basically what I think Relief Society does for me now.
Girls Camp and Testimony meeting: One particular girls camp, the leaders had us all gather and told us that Ogden and Hill Air Force Base had been bombed and they weren't sure if our parents were okay...etc. We all knew it wasn't true, but there were still girls bawling and carrying on, and we were supposed to write letters to our families, and well, Amanda C. (remember Ands, she was bit of a goth) and Rachel (Ands -your cousin) and I sat snickering away in a corner. And basically were glared at the whole time by our leaders. I was 13 or 14 at the time. I'm telling this story to simply to make the point that I've never been the type of girl to bawl hysterically in that type of situation (okay, Andrea, I know I bawl hysterically fairly regularly but not in those situations). I think the most impressive testimony I ever heard at girls camp was a girl who said she wasn't sure if she had a testimony, but she was trying to find out (her honesty impressed me--because I felt the same but didn't have the courage to say it). I either avoided bearing my testimony or simply said something short and to the point. But I know a lot of girls who really seemed to find it all inspiring and faith building.
And now on to YM and YW's in general: I don't know what to say. My experiences are very varied. Personally, in YW's I was always jealous of the YM who seemed to get to do more--hiking, camping, ACTIVE things. I didn't have a bad time in YW's though. Leo was in the YM's presidency in Chicago and only 3 YM came, and the rest were on drugs (literally) and had serious immorality issues. But this is where I'd like to know more about Ms Psycho-lady's study and statistics. Where are those statistics from? The whole church? The US? Utah? I just skimmed so maybe I missed it, but that makes a big difference. Our ward was a Spanish speaking ward in Chicago and entirely composed of converts, who were mostly illegal immigrants, and lived in brutal neighborhoods. I'm amazed even three YM came. (See, this is where demographics come in, the Hispanic population across the US is booming, also baptismal rates for Hispanics is also very high--yet Hispanic culture in many ways is at odds with Mormon values of modesty and strict following the rules. It's more like mañana, mañana and dotting the i's doesn't matter. It's going to take a while, probably a few generations for that to change. But I think it will.)
As for my experience here in Provo as a YW leader, well again, it was the Spanish ward, mostly illegal immigrants, mostly converts, and yes, we had huge issues with our YW (16 and under, older than that they didn't come anymore) with immorality, modesty, etc. However, have you taken a recent gander at Latin culture? The girls were horribly immodest but dressed pretty much the same as their culture at large, and like I said, most of these girls were converts, it takes a while most of the time for principles to sink in, especially when the mother's dressed the same. And as for a huge budget, we had $600 for the entire year, YC and YW's camp included. The YM had $300. Ummm, overspending was not our problem. And painting fingernails did result in our biggest turnout for a weekday activity. Good or bad? At least they were there and not at their boyfriends' houses.
So, what did I teach or plan for activities? First, I tried to get the president to actually have a meeting once a month to plan activities. That took several months. Then yes, we catered to the girls to try to get them to come while throwing in a activity from the YW Personal Progress on the side, so that maybe they might think about accomplishing something useful.
Lessons on Sunday were much better, when I just had the MiaMaids (2 sisters made up my class), I was entirely frank with them ALL the time. Basically, you have to know the gospel is true or none of it matters. They'd ask me deeper questions sometimes and I always took the time to discuss with them what I knew or what I didn't know, no matter what the topic was. That's what I wanted as a teenager. I also think that those girls are already making huge decisions in their lives (relationship-wise anyway) so I think they ought to be treated like adults and given more, not less information. (I know this is somewhat contradictory, I mean, they are being irresponsible, but still those decisions they're making will affect them forever, so why treat them as children? If they chose to do things which are adult in nature, they should be treated as adults.) Which is a point that carries across to all YM and YW, I think we don't give them enough information. And how can we expect any depth of learning to occur if all we ever do is cake walk around things??
I've actually been thinking of this article lately. And it really bothers me. Basically it talks about how the new adult age is 22-25 not 18 or so like it used to be. Really??? What a bunch of babies. That's my inflammatory rhetoric for the day.
Here's my plan for raising my kids. I'm going to move to Argentina, put my kids in a private Catholic school, and tell them that they belong to the only true church and that they need to act according to it's teachings, and not misbehave and ruin the example they could set for all their Catholic friends and nuns and such, and thus force them to stand out and stand up for their beliefs. Hee. Hee. Okay, maybe that's a bit extreme, but honestly, my biggest fear for my children is not if they paint fingernails every week in YW's but solely that they'll be sheep and just follow trends and friends, in or out of the church.
And now that I've spent two hours here with very poor grammar and probably didn't make any sense, I need to go do some work. Chao, amigas.